Watermelon Pie for the Fourth of July

I often get asked what kind of pie to make for holidays. I imagine that a lot of people are making apple pies for Independence Day. While I am all for apple pie, I have taken a stand against it being called the most American pie. It is not. Nor is watermelon. But it’s the season for watermelon here in Virginia and watermelon pie is so easy to make.

Fresh watermelon is a summertime treat throughout the South.  Many of us still grow the melons in our gardens, even though you can get them any time of year in the grocery store.  This pretty pink pie is so easy to make, though it doesn’t travel well, unless you keep it cool. It’s as refreshing as pie gets during these long, hot days of summer. This recipe is from MRS. ROWE’S LITTLE BOOK OF SOUTHERN PIES (Random House 2009).

Makes one 9-inch pie

1 Graham Cracker Crust, baked

1 3-ounce package watermelon gelatin

1/4 cup boiling water

1 12-ounce package non-dairy whipped topping, thawed

2 cups cubed seedless watermelon

In a small bowl, dissolve gelatin in 1/4 cup boiling water.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

Whisk in the non-dairy topping until completely blended.

Fold in the watermelon cubes.

Do not add any liquid that has drained from the watermelon.

Spoon into the piecrust.  Chill for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.

Killer Hobbies and Me

Today, I am a guest blogger at Killer Hobbies, a blog written by several “craft” mystery writers. Joanna Campbell Slan invited me to blog about pie and I couldn’t resist, even though I’ve moved on to writing mysteries. Pie will always be a huge part of my life, of course. And  I am always willing to share.

Joanna has written quite a few scrapbooking mysteries herself. (Check out my interview with her here. ) She’s warmly welcomed me into the mystery writing community—as have many others. I’ve been touched by so much generosity and kindness. Please visit the blog and click around while you’re there. You won’t be sorry.

Five thing I thought about during my morning run:

1. Hey, I think that’s Christy, wearing a yellow shirt. Just like I am. 😉

2. Sometimes when I run, it’s barely a run. I am slogging. But today, I was able to speed up a bit and I tried to concentrate on lengthening my stride.

3. The woman with the Coonhunt Club t-shirt. Why would you hunt raccoons? Fur? Meat? I can’t imagine.

4. O, I’m going to eat at Stone Soup today. Always a treat. But today, it will be even more of a treat. I meeting with Deborah, who I met at the VPW conference last and we found out that we had a lot in common and that we are both ASJA members. Cool.

5. I wonder if pie is on the menu?

Red Velvet Lovey-Dovey Pie for Valentine’s Day

Red velvet is special in the Bryan house. Last year, I made my first red velvet cake from scratch for my husband of now nearly 20 years. Red velvet cake is his favorite. We’ve bought so many of them over the years for him that I really had no idea what a homemade red velvet cake would taste like. He asked for a homemade cake and that is what he got. Quite happily.

Of course, the cake was so much tastier. And I fell in love with the process and idea of making cake. But pie is more a part of my family tradition—and it is the subject of my cookbook, even though it’s Mrs. Rowe’s pies, not my own.

So as I found myself enjoying making the cake, I also felt a little like a traitor to pie. But I learned a lot about the cake that I wouldn’t have known without actually making it. It’s not a simple chocolate cake—as some have suggested to me. It’s really a buttermilk-cocoa cake. I’m no fan of sipping buttermilk—but it adds a depth of flavor and tang to cooking and baking that’s hard beat.  As I was mixing the cake, I thought of Mrs. Rowe’s buttermilk pie. How easy would it be to make it into a “red velvet” pie? Quite easy, as it turns out.

I just added cocoa and red food coloring to an otherwise perfect buttermilk pie recipe. The pie gets a thin cakelike skin on it as it cools, which is lovely for topping purposes. It would work with a number of toppings. But for me, it’s not red velvet without the cream cheese icing.

This recipe is a perfect example of how versatile pie is—once you have a good, solid recipe that works, it’s fun and easy to experiment with it. I call this pie my “Lovey-Dovey Red Velvet Pie” because I’m honoring my husband’s Southern traditions and tastes while also acknowledging my own pie-loving Yankee family and traditions. Perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Makes one 9-inch pie

1 pie crust

1 cup unsalted butter, melted, slightly cooled

1 cup sugar

½ cup all purpose flour

3 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 heaping teaspoons of cocoa

1 ounce of red food coloring

Preheat oven to 325. Line a 9-inch pie plate with dough and crimp the edges.

In a bowl, combine the butter, sugar, and flour, and stir
well. One at a time, add the eggs. Mixing well after each addition. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and stir well. Next, add the cocoa and stir into filling. Last, stir in the food coloring. Red, isn’t it?

Pour the batter into the pie crust.

The original buttermilk pie recipe called for baking for 25 to 35 minutes, until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. But it took 45 minutes in my oven for it thicken. When you insert the knife, there will be a little filling on it—but it continues to firm up as it cools.

Transfer it to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, until the filling firms up. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

You can top this with just about anything; I used a cream cheese icing recipe that was a bit too sweet. I’m still searching for a better cream cheese topping for this pie.

Disclaimer: this post is a rehash of an earlier one.

Exciting New York City Week Ahead

I’ll be in New York next week so I won’t be posting regularly. But if you’ve been following along on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, chances are you know why I am going to New York.  I’ve a lot of reasons for going now.

Last year, when I attended the Roger Smith Food Writer’s Conference, someone said New York City doesn’t have good pie. So, I have been checking into it a bit and while it’s true that it doesn’t seem to have a reputation for good pie—like it does for say, cheesecake—it looks like there are some restaurants in Manhattan worth checking out. I’m willing to sacrifice (a-hem) and find out IF good pie exists in the city.

Now, that said, I’m not making any promises. The city is an unforgiving place when it comes to time.  So many things could happen along the way. I’m allowing myself some time to explore what ever may come up. But pie is one of my priorities.

I’m also going to get a chance to meet with my fiction agent, Sharon Bowers, which is always a pleasure. I just love picking her brain and hearing about all of her exciting projects. One of thing I’m sure we’ll discuss is my transition into fiction writing. (And I’m just a wee bit exited about that!)

Also, I will be meeting with my new editor at Kensington, Martin Biro, who will give me a little tour and then we will meet over lunch to get to know one another. We’ll be working together over the next 3 years (at least) and this meeting gets us off to a grand start.

I’m going to pop in at Random House and meet with an editor there who is on my ASJA panel in the spring— Rica Allannic.  It will be wonderful to meet her before the conference in April.  Now, Random House is the publisher of my cookbooks, so it will be extremely cool to check it out.

Along with all these meetings, I’ll also be catching up with some dear friends—one very close friend of my family back home, so close that I always refer to her as my cousin.

I will try to keep you posted as I go along next week. Stay tuned.

Five things I thought during my morning run:

1. Long, slender silver-edged white clouds.

2. I should NOT have had that slice of key lime pie last night, but it was so good. As was everything.

3. I needed that. Thank you, Christy, Kristie, and Jen.

4. Next Saturday will be completely PIE-FILLED.

5. I’m so sore today–not from running or walking, but from cleaning and packing. Cross training?

Have Green Tomatoes, Make Pie

are never any leftovers of this flavorful pie at Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant and
Bakery Staunton, Va. Customers look forward to it—such a short season—with its
robust spice and vinegar flavors,
perfectly mingled with an underlying sweetness. The flavors unfold with every
Long-time regular customers know to get to the restaurant early enough
to enjoy a slice.  If the green tomato season
slips by, try tomatillos instead. This pie also works as a side dish with pork chops, chicken or veggie burgers.

you’d like another way to use your green tomatoes, check out my other blog for
a sandwich spread recipe.)

two 10-inch pies.

12 cups of mincemeat

recipes pie crust (You will need a top and bottom crust for both pies.)


pounds green tomatoes (or tomatillos) 

3 1/2
pounds apples

pounds brown sugar

pounds seedless raisins

tablespoon salt

2 ½
tablespoons cinnamon

teaspoons ground allspice

tablespoon nutmeg

tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/4
cups vinegar

the tomatoes though a food chopper. Add
salt and let stand for one hour. Drain
the tomatoes and add water, enough to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for five
minutes. Drain. Pare,
core, and chop the apples until very fine. Add
the tomatoes and other ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Bring
to a boiling point and simmer for one hour. Stir frequently to keep from
burning on bottom of the pan. Cool. This will take about 3 hours at room
temperature. This
will keep in refrigerator or will freeze well.

oven to 425°F. 

the unbaked pie shell with mincemeat (approximately 5 cups).   Cover with top crust and seal

at 425°F for 15 minutes.

temperature to 350°F and continue to bake for 35 minutes.

for 2 hours at room temperature before serving.

Betty Bryan’s Heavenly Coconut Cream Pie

My mother-in-law, Betty Bryan, is a fantastic cook and baker—and like a lot of good cooks, she doesn't really cook or bake by using recipes. So with that introduction, I'd like to tell you about her coconut cream pie and give you her exact recipe, but I can't. Let's just say it's as exact as I can make it for now, after talking with her briefly. But let me just tell you that whatever experimenting you manage with this pie, it will be worth it in the end. It's a much more soothing, less sweet,  and softer-on-the-palate version of coconut than say Mrs. Rowe's Coconut Cream–itself an iconic pie known to travelers across the country. Betty's pie is made with (non-instant) vanilla pudding and coconut flakes, which is a heavenly combination. 

This "recipe" makes 3 pies. (Regular size, not deep dish.)

Preheat oven to 400.

Prebake your pie crust. 

2 big packages of Jello vanilla pudding (follow the instruction, except for the eggs, which you will add)

5-8 Eggs for meringue (use Mrs. Rowe's weepless meringue, click here)

Take your egg yolks and stir them into the pudding as it cooks.

A hand full (seriously) or about a cup of coconut flakes also gets stirred into the pudding as it cooks.

You also want to save some coconut for sprinkling on top of the pie before it goes into the oven.

The pudding needs to cool to room temperature, then pour it into the prebaked pie crusts. Place your meringue on top, sprinkle the coconut. Bake it in the oven for about 15 minutes.

"You really need to watch it because ovens are so different and you don't want it to burn," Betty says. Truer words were never spoken.